There’s about a two week transitional period here in the Pacific Northwest that sees us through the last heat wave of summer and into the inevitable, seemingly abrupt, turn to autumn. It’s a welcome time, as we’re so accustomed to our often mild weather and dressing in layers, plus one can only read so many fun beach novels before craving something different. At least, that’s the case for us. This time of year, as we slide back in to misty mornings, shorter days, and brilliantly colored trees, we find ourselves drawn to atmospheric campus novels, classics, fantasy, and usually a good door stop or two as we cozy in with warm blankets and tea.
After much debate and scouring of shelves, these are some of the many books we’re most looking forward to reading this fall.
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There are a few novels that I’ve simply been meaning to read until the weather shifted and the slow, dark prose was well-suited to the overall mood and atmosphere of the season. When you fully immerse yourself into the atmosphere of a novel, matching the weather, the seasonal food, the clothes, etc., can all be felt in a greater context. I’ve started most of these actually, seeing which ones I really wanted to commit to, and well, they all made the cut.
Michaela turned me on to Oscar Wilde a few years ago with The Importance of Being Earnest, and after needing a palate cleanser, I started The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’ve been making my way through this book this past month, and have found myself laughing out loud on so many occasions. It is a hysterical. While also craving something slow and intentional, Karl One Knausgaard’s Autumn was a no-brainer! One of the most charming stories of simple every day things that one may or may not ever reflect on as they go about their day, raise their children, meander through orchards, and watch the sun set.
Needing even more mood, I can’t resist Faulkner, whom I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. As I Lay Dying is the deeper, make-you-think type of novel I can easily get lost in on a rainy day. A perfect compliment to Faulkner is Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I’m excited to explore both author’s work.
I’m keeping the rest of my options open for campus novels and moody books, so if you have recommendations, feel free to send them my way! Speaking of recommendations, The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon was recently recommended to us as a “hard to put down campus novel. I’m really looking forward to reading this! The reviews are quite controversial and all over the place, which is all the intrigue I need.
The colder the weather gets, the more I crave fantasy, big tomes, and atmospheric reads. I seek this same mood every year, I know, but I can’t help it! Nothing goes better with a steaming mug of tea than richly drawn worlds and dark atmosphere.
For fantasy this fall I’m kind of running the gamut this season. I’m picking up Diane Setterfield’s (The Thirteenth Tale, anyone?) forthcoming novel Once Upon A River, which is a all myth and fairytale and mystery; you know, the good stuff. I’m also reading the third installment of Becky Chamber’s Wayfarers series, Record of a Spaceborn Few. If her past books are any indication, this one will be a warm cozy hug of a sci-fi novel and I can’t wait to just be wrapped in her magical world building and characters.
I’m also picking up two, big hefty plot-driven fantasy novels: The Lies of Locke Lamora, because I’ve been meaning to read it forever (and it is soooooo delightfully sassy and fun so far!), and Warbreaker for book club, which sounds like it’s basically going to be kickass princesses and magic and gods. Obviously I am here for it, plus Sanderson is another author I’ve been meaning to read.
I’m mixing up my atmospheric books this year, and instead of going and hiding in The Secret History forever and ever, I’m looking to a few authors I trust to give me that moody ambiance I crave. Lief Enger (of Peace Like A River fame) has a new novel out October 2nd called Virgil Wander, and from what I’ve read of it so far, it is just exquisite. The plot is nearly irrelevant, it’s enough to just bask in Enger’s writing, but it revolves around a man, his life changing accident, and his relationships with the people in his small town.
Speaking of exquisite writing, I just finished reading Claire Fuller’s forthcoming title Bitter Orange, and was so blown away by the level of skill and atmosphere, I was immediately inspired to pick up her previous works Swimming Lessons and Our Endless, Numbered Days. Though the plots are all different, I’m hearing she has that moody undercurrent I love in all her books.
I’m also excited for The Essex Serpent, which has been on my TBR for a while thanks to everyone praising it’s atmospheric Victorian setting, spooky bits, and deep dives into the main character and her relationships. The last two novels I’m anticipating are Home Fire, which I’m sure you’ve seen absolutely everywhere thanks to it winning the women’s prize for fiction and getting long listed for the Man Booker, and Gentlemen and Players, which should fulfill my Secret History cravings quite nicely with it’s campus setting and murder-y vibes.
Call me crazy, but I am head over heels in love with War and Peace. It’s famously enormous, of course, but whenever I pick it up I always, ALWAYS get sucked into it and end up reading for an hour—or three. I’m currently about 300 pages into it, and you can read a bit about why I decided to read it and how I chose the translation I’m reading right over here.
Also, maybe this will sound silly, but it’s really helped me to watch the mini series as I make my way through this behemoth. I’ve been watching an episode, reading up to where the episode cuts off, and then watching another, then reading, etc. It helps me to know where I’m going in the book and the show is just so deliciously well done; it’s been a great companion to the novel. I’m hoping to finish this one well before the year ends, so wish me luck!